I can honestly say that at the start of 2016, I had no idea I would be shooting my first wedding by the end of the year. I was no where even close to being ready. I did a couple favors for friends and photographed sections of their weddings- mainly the getting ready part. But that was it. It wasn’t until around mid summer that things began to take a turn. A close friend was about to have a surprise engagement party where she would be proposed at. I got the invite and immediately asked if they planned for a photographer (I knew for a fact that was one of the things she would want-I was right) So I offered to capture the moment! I was so incredibly nervous even though I was doing it for free- that lead to a couple engagement photos. A few weeks later I had two sessions with my younger brother for his high school senior photos. They turned out so well that people slowly started asking. Of those people, a dear friend of mine, Monica, asked me to take her engagement photos! This was such a huge deal, I was so excited!After the engagement session was finished, I felt I was very ready to start my journey into weddings…But I was still not ready to do one on my own. So I emailed. I emailed so many local photographers asking if I could assist them or second shoot at a wedding or even just see them as a mentor! I was having no luck. So I thought, maybe if the photographer knows my friends or is working with them they’d be more willing to help me out. So I asked Monica for her wedding photographer’s contact information. We started talking about what kind of experience I have etc. but before it could even get anywhere, Monica reached out to me again. She explained that her photographer she had chosen fell through and she searched and searched but never felt like any one else was “the right one”. She told me how she really just felt like I would be able to capture her day and trusted my previous work enough to take the chance! I was so nervous but so excited! So I said yes. And then I realized… I need to start preparing NOW!I joined several local photography groups on Facebook. Pinterest also has a ton of very great blog posts about first time wedding photographers. So I read. And read and read and read and then I asked about a hundred questions in the Facebook groups. I sucked in any and all information like a sponge.
Despite all of the many many blogs I read, and questions I asked, there is still a lot I only learned by the experience itself.
- When I was preparing, there were so many guides I found for the gear to use and pack with you for the day. I felt like I was so prepared! But one thing sort of slipped through the cracks. All the advice mentioned to bring extra memory cards. And I had plenty. But they never tell you what kind of cards… I had no idea that the speed of the card would make such a huge difference when shooting in RAW. Or that certain cameras work better and faster with a CF rather than an SD card. My camera froze up on me for a few seconds during some of the most important moments! Luckily it unfroze just in time for me to capture the first kiss! Rookie mistake.
- Speaking of gear, other photographers probably push this one more than anything! I remember reading and hearing “Always have backups- you never know what can happen!” I had to rent part of my equipment. I bought a 24-70mm lens and rented a camera body as well as a 70-200mm lens. Months before the wedding, I asked one of the local photography groups where is the best place to rent lenses. They all suggested a few websites or places in the area, so I went with one of the websites. I booked my equipment and waited for it to arrive. To my horror, there was a delay in shipping so instead of arriving a day prior to the wedding, it was due to be delivered halfway through the actual wedding! I was freaking out! I turned to the group once more telling them my situation and they recommended a local rental shop who just so happened to have only one left of the camera I needed! That was close. Next time I think I’ll be a little more prepared for things like this.
- Speaking of being prepared, half the stuff everyone else tells you you’ll need, you don’t really believe you’ll end up needing. Pack it anyways. I didn’t think i would need to bring wooden hangers. Doesn’t every bridal shop give the bride a pretty hanger? NOPE! They get ugly plastic ones! I’m so glad I decided to bring that hanger, it definitely helped during those detail shots of the dress!
- Another thing they said to bring is a snack because you will get hungry and tired. BOY is that an understatement! I had plenty of snacks for the hunger part. But the tired part is what most blogs did NOT seem to cover very well. Working a 12 hour day is never easy. But you don’t really realize how tiring it gets to carry around all of your equipment during that time! By the end of the day I was so physically exhausted from lugging around two cameras with large lenses and a flash hanging around my neck! Which leads us to…
- The pain. OH THE PAIN! One camera is not that heavy on its own. But once you add a flash to the top and another camera with a telephoto lens, those suckers seem to weigh a ton! The straps were digging into my neck. But the pain doesn’t end there-in fact that’s more like where it begins! Pretty much the entire day, I was in a lunge position to get a better angle when shooting. The pain didn’t go away for about a week! If only I’d been warned of the burn! I just didn’t really consider any of that while planning. If you’re preparing to shoot your first wedding or all day event, work out. Every day. Do. Lunges. The next time I shoot a wedding, you bet I’ll be lunging everywhere I go in the weeks leading up to the event!
- Now one thing the blogs DO tell you is to bring water. Lots of water. For the first half of the day, I had a water bottle with me and I’m so glad I did. But by the time the reception rolled around, I’d completely forgotten to put a new filled water bottle in my bag. I was so thirsty the whole night! Sure there was a water and drink area at the reception, but as the photographer, I was far too busy to go fill up a cup every 15 minutes.
- The very last thing I learned from my first wedding wasn’t until the wedding itself was actually over. My editing style. Sure I’ve photographed many people and things and developed a style throughout those experiences. But weddings are a bit different. My brother’s senior photos were not as soft and airy as the wedding photos. After looking through around 2 thousand photos and editing almost 500, I really was able to discover my wedding photography style!
Being that this was my first wedding, sure I made a lot of mistakes. But I really and most importantly learned some of the biggest lessons to take into future weddings and that despite how physically challenging the whole day was, it was over all very rewarding. My photography greatly improved through out the entire experience from practice shoots and Christmas photos up to the wedding itself. I am so beyond satisfied with how the collection turned out and cannot wait to deliver them to Monica and her new husband Steven!
Time to find a new project!